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Google and US chipmaker SkyWater expand open source chip design platform

(Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker SkyWater Technology Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google Public Sector said on Thursday they were developing an open-source platform to design chips that can be manufactured at SkyWater’s facilities in Minnesota.

SkyWater said the US Department of Defense is funding $15 million for the development of the platform.

“One of the reasons the U.S. government is investing in this initiative is so they can leverage a lot of this development then,” SkyWater CEO Thomas Sonderman said.

Designing and manufacturing chips is a very expensive process. Not only is chip design software, called electronic design automation or EDA, expensive to license, but manufacturing the first test chips in manufacturing facilities can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“We hope the collaboration will resolve what are truly historical limitations of chip design and production, both for national defense and commercial markets, as researchers benefit from greater accessibility and developers can browse this exploration faster and more frankly to reduce costs,” said Will Grannis, CEO of Google Public Sector.

Google Public Sector June, a for-profit subsidiary of Google LLC, was launched in June to better work with the government and educational institutions, Grannis said. The chip design platform will be powered by Google and live on Google’s cloud, he said.

This is the second chip design platform project Google and SkyWater have worked on. The first was a platform for chips that could be fabricated using SkyWater’s 130-nanometer process. The latest concerns the production of chips on SkyWater’s 90 nanometer process.

Sonderman said the platform is for analog-digital mixed-signal chips often used in things like smart home products. These chips can take advantage of larger transistors, such as 90 nanometers, for cheaper production, he said.

(Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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